In its work session Monday, Oct. 5, the Pequot Lakes School Board received an enrollment update showing the district with about 60 fewer students than had been projected.

The district is currently serving 1,729 students in the 2020-21 school year.

“I am looking at this year, specifically with enrollment, very much as an anomaly due to COVID,” Business Manager Heidi Hagen said. “Now, can we predict how COVID will affect future years’ enrollment today? No. Optimistically thinking, I hope and pray that this is just a one-year blip, so to speak. We have, over the past several years, trended each year with a modest and consistent increase to enrollment.”

Because of the decrease in enrollment, the district could see a decrease of roughly $500,000-$600,000 in state funding, from what was budgeted in the spring.

“We are fortunate that some of the funding we are losing in state aid, we are recouping in federal funding,” Hagen said. “However, federal funding is specific to what it can be spent on.”

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Hagen informed the board she is working on a revised budget recommendation that she will bring to the board in its November work session, and said the district needs to consider what this year’s enrollment figures will do for future enrollment, if anything.

“The big question for us to wrestle with - that none of us have the answer for - is do we use the charts and projections we used last spring, that have a long history of projecting growth, or is what we are feeling now going to change the trajectory of that?” Superintendent Chris Lindholm said. “No one has the answer, and it affects us on a lot of things.”

Because of the loss in funds, Lindholm recommended the board “press pause” on construction projects taking place at the district’s STEM campus.

“We are down 60 kids,” Lindholm said. “There is nothing that says we have to do this tomorrow … Let’s circle back to this question in May.”

The subject should be on the agenda for the board’s regular meeting on Monday, Oct. 19.

Dan Determan may be reached at 218-855-5879 or dan.determan@pineandlakes.com. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Dan.